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Full text of "On criminal abortion : a lecture introductory to the course on obstetrics, and diseases of women and children : University of Pennsylvania, session 1854-5"

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SESSION 1854-5. 






At a meeting of the Medical Class of the University of Pennsylvania, held Oct. 
16, 1854, Mr. William Cook, of New Jersey, being called to the Chair, and Mr. W. 
K. Fort, of Alabama, appointed Secretary: On motion, it was resolved that a 
Committee be appointed to carry out the intention of the meeting, consisting of 
one from each State, Province, and Country, as follows: — 

G. W. L. Carr, 
0. T. Hunt, 
Eder Heston, 
S. R. Williams, 
Jos. Jones, 
Zaccheus Test, 
C. B. Talbutt, 
W. T. Miller, 
Bradly Tyler, 
James D. Hewett, 
J. Newton Helm, 
Julian Bates, 
A. H. Chandler, 













New Brunswick. 

Charles Hodge, Jr., New Jersey. 
E. C. Coryell, New York. 

W. T. Macnair, North Carolina. 

Thomas W. Carritt, Nova Scotia. 

R. A. O'Brien, 

S. Preston Jones, 
J. Brown Gaston, 
R. B. Berry, 
Wm. D. Woodend, 
R. D. Mazarredo, 
Charles Grebe, 



South Carolina. 





Augustus T. Stamm, Prussia. 


University of Pennsylvania, 
October 20, 1854. 
Dear Sir : We, the undersigned, have been deputed by the Medical Class to ask 
a copy of your Introductory Lecture for publication. This task we cheerfully per- 
form, and, heartily uniting in the request, 

Remain yours, respectfully, 

Jos. Jones, 
Julian Bates, 
Wm. T. Macnair, 
James D. Hewett, 
Richard A. O'Brien. 
To Dr. H. L. HODGE. 

University of Pennsylvania, 
October 27, 1854. 

Gentlemen: The Introductory Lecture which you, on the part of the Medical 
Class, have so politely requested for publication, was delivered to the Class of 1839, 
and by them was printed. 

The subject presented is, however, of so much practical importance to the moral 
character of the community, that I will submit it once more for publication, in an 
amended condition, under the hope that it may, in some degree, rectify erroneous 
and prevalent views, as to the value of the life of the "foetus in utero." 

With thanks for your politeness, 

Respectfully yours, 


Messrs. Jos. Jones, Julian Bates, Wm. T. Macnair, James D. Hewett, Rich- 
ard A. O'Brien, Committee. 



The revolution of another year furnishes the Professors of 
this University the pleasure of witnessing these halls crowded 
with intelligent and cultivated youth from all portions of our 
extended country. 

We bid you welcome. We hail you as the devoted and enthu- 
siastic cultivators of a science, which, however difficult and com- 
plicated, deservedly ranks among the most exalted pursuits to 
which the human mind can be devoted. 

The science of medicine, in every respect, is important and 
elevated : whether we regard its objects — the health and lives of 
human beings; its cultivators — many of them individuals of the 
first talents and the most exemplary morals ; the difficulties of 
attainment — requiring attention, diligence, perseverance, self-de- 
nial, and the continued exertion of mind and body for a series of 
years ; or the amount of literary and scientific knowledge which 
it imperiously demands for its proper cultivation; calling, as it 
does, to its aid all sciences and all knowledge ; receiving assist- 
ance from the Geologist, who surveys the earth and penetrates its 
deepest recesses ; from the Astronomer, who walks among the 
stars and suns of other systems; from the Chemist, who deals 
with atoms ; and from the Metaphysician, who attempts to grasp 
the subtleties of mind, and elucidate the operations of our spiritual 
existence. The superiority of our profession is illustrated, not 
only by the talents and excellences of its cultivators, and by the 
variety and extent of the knowledge required, but, and here it 
dreads no comparison, by the practical benefits which it con- 
stantly confers on the community. 

It is not my present object to portray these benefits. If time 

and opportunity allowed, minute and interesting illustrations 
might easily be given of the beneficial influences of medicine. 
You might be conducted to the secret chamber of suffering ; to 
the public hospitals overflowing with human misery; or to the 
battle-field, that aceldama, that field of blood, where the ingenuity 
of man has been successfully exercised in the mutilation and 
destruction of his species ; and in all, and each of these, you might 
witness the alleviation or the relief of pain, the arrest of disease 
and death, the returning health, and strength, and beauty which 
attend the scientific and experienced physician, and which pro- 
claim the benevolent and beneficent influences of the healing art. 
And even when success is denied, when disease and death prove 
conquerors, and, amidst manifold trials and suffering, man passes 
away from this world to the next, how divinely does the medical 
practitioner administer comfort to mind and body ! how greatly 
does he alleviate suffering! how gently does he support his con- 
fiding patient to the borders of that grave from which he would 
have gladly delivered him. 

There is, however, another aspect in which our profession is 
to be viewed, which has not been sufficiently regarded, and which 
enlarges, even to an indefinite degree, the number of those bless- 
ings of which it is so prolific. Allusion is made to its capability 
of preserving health, and of preventing disease and death ; in other 
words, to hygiene. 

As a disciple of Hygiea, the physician becomes the guardian 
of the health and lives of the community. He takes cogni- 
zance of the various direct and indirect causes by which disease 
maybe introduced into private dwellings, hospitals, jails, ships, 
armies, cities, and countries; he points out the jitvantia, as well 
as the Icedentia— what will benefit, as well as what will injure. 
He discourses scientifically, as well as ethically, on the advantages 
of temperance in meats and drinks; on the influence of a pure 
atmosphere; on the importance of exercise, whether passive or 
active, in the city or the country; of cleanliness, of bathing, 
clothing, temperature, &c. 

He investigates and points out the influence of the mind on the 
body; the necessity of regulating the exercises oi' the intellectual 
powers; of restraining and guiding the warm affections of the 
heart; of checking the still warmer and more threatening cbulli- 

tions of passion. In short, everything which can by possibility 
injure human health or life, becomes the subject of his reflections, 
and enables him to proffer advice beneficial to society. 

Such general considerations might be enlarged upon and suit- 
ably illustrated ; but let us, for the present, apply them to that 
department of medical science which I have the honor to repre- 
sent in this University. 

The science of Obstetrics has more immediate reference to the 
process of parturition in all its varieties, whether natural or unna- 
tural — simple or complicated. 

This function (for it is truly physiological, belonging to healthy, 
not diseased actions) is by far the most complicated and danger- 
ous of the female economy. It has reference, also, not merely to 
the act of delivery, but to the whole period of gestation, and to 
the condition of the woman for some time after parturition. Of 
course it must take cognizance of the temperaments and constitu- 
tions of females; of their peculiarities; of their fitness, or even 
of their capability to bear children ; and how far this capability 
is injured or destroyed by prior disease or accident. 

Obstetrics, moreover, is distinguished by the interesting fact 
that the welfare of two individuals is involved in every case of 
pregnancy and parturition. Hence the practitioner of Obstetrics 
has his duties and responsibilities necessarily enlarged. He must 
regard the infant, as well as the mother, from the period of con- 
ception to delivery; and generally is called upon to be its medical 
attendant during the first few weeks or months of its independent 

Hence, the diseases of women and infants are usuall} r commit- 
ted more exclusively to his care ; and, in accordance with the 
views just presented of the duties of the medical practitioner, he 
must call on all the faculties of his mind, all the resources of his 
knowledge and experience, to prevent as well as cure their dis- 
eases ; yea, at all times, and on all occasions, to watch over their 
physical interests, that life and health may be preserved, and 
every corporeal faculty be perfectly developed. He appears as 
the 'physical guardian of women and their offspring. 

Under this representation of the subject, the elevated character 
and the immense importance of obstetric science to the welfare of 
a community, must at once be apparent. On former occasions, I 

have urged this subject on the attention of my pupils ; alluding 
to the past and present unaccountable neglect of this branch of 
medical science, and insisting on its inherent superiority and its 
practical bearings. I endeavored to exhibit these truths, by 
pointing out the physical and intellectual character of the female 
sex; noticing the peculiarity of her anatomical and physiological 
developments ; dwelling on the influence which she exerts over 
her progeny at conception, during its embryotic and foetal exist- 
ence, and especially during the susceptible periods of infancy and 
childhood, when man, by the admirable arrangements of Provi- 
dence, is committed almost exclusively to the superintendence of 
woman. Add to this the influence, almost unbounded, which in 
future life she exerts over man, her nominal lord, by her beauty 
and grace, her sprightliness and wit, and especially by the depth 
and devotedness of her affections. 

It was maintained that woman requires assistance in childbirth, 
as accidents may, at any mc^nent, occur, involving the life of 
mother or child, or of both; that this truth was not nullified by 
the fact that females often deliver themselves safely, and that the 
inferior order of animals have usually favorable labors. 

It was shown that there are important anatomical, physiological, 
and moral reasons, why parturition in the human female should 
be more difficult and dangerous than among animals of an inferior 
grade; and it was also, I may say, demonstrated that dangerous 
and often fatal complications of labor arise from anatomical pecu- 
liarities of mother or child, from irregular or perverted states, or 
disturbances of her physiological functions ; and especially from 
the existence of local or general disease. 

Hence the absolute necessity of the science and practice of 
obstetrics to detect these dangers, and to protect and preserve a 
being so wonderfully constructed, so beautiful, so interesting, so 
moral, so intellectual, and so influential for good over the best 
interests of man, and over the destinies of nations, as woman, " the 
last, best gift of Heaven to man." 

But, however important and valuable, however good and excel- 
lent a mother must be regarded, we must not forget her offspring, 
in the various stages of its existence, from the moment of its con- 
ception to delivery, and from birth to the full development of its 
physical and moral nature. 


In a most mysterious manner brought into existence, how won- 
derful its formation! Imperfect in the first instance, yea, even 
invisible to the naked eye, the embryo is nevertheless endowed, 
at once, with the principles of vitality; and, although retained 
within the system of its mother, it has, in a strict sense, an inde- 
pendent existence. It immediately manifests all the phenomena 
of organic life ; it forms its own fluids, and circulates them ; it is 
nourished and developed ; and, very rapidly, from being a rudes 
indigestdaue moles, apparently, an inorganic drop of fluid, its organs 
are generated and its form perfected. It daily gains strength and 
grows ; and, wnile still within the organ of its mother, manifests 
some of the phenomena of animal life, especially as regards mo- 
bility. After the fourth month its motions are perceptible to the 
mother, and in a short period can be perceived by other indivi- 
duals on due investigation. 

From certain facts, it is also inferred that the foetus has percep- 
tion in utero, the sense of tact ; and, moreover, that at this time 
it has its organs, relating to animal life, in such a state that they 
will act when they meet with their appropriate stimuli. Hence, 
children born during either of the last three months of utero-ges- 
tation, very generally survive: their brain, nerves, and senses 
being sufficiently developed to receive without injury appropriate 
impressions from natural stimuli. It is a living being. 

Moreover, facts, in great numbers, can readily be produced, which, 
positively prove that there is no direct communication between the 
foetus (even in its earliest embryotic and most imperfect state), and 
the mother whose organs contain it. Surrounded by fluids and 
membranes, it derives from its mother the materials for support 
and growth, and a nidus, or spot, where it shall be protected from 
physical injury. Similar to the chicle in ovo, it is, therefore, not 
only a living, but an independent being; and, as it will be univer- 
sally acknowledged that the father has no influence over his off- 
spring after the moment of conception, the same is true as regards 
the mother. All the peculiarities which a mother impresses on her 
offspring (and they are numerous and wonderful) are imparted at 
or before the moment of conception, by means of the original germ 
formed in her ovary. The embryo thus generated by germs from 
each parent has henceforth an independent existence. As regards 
its vital properties, it is as perfect as it ever will be; its subsequent 


nutrition, growth, susceptibilities, are but the successive manifes- 
tations of these vital properties. As the acorn, removed from the 
towering oak, and dropped into the earth, is capable of vegetating 
and producing, in due time, under favorable circumstances, by its 
own inherent powers, another oak, similar in size and grandeur to 
that from which the acorn fell ; so the embryo, by its own innate 
vital properties, received at the moment of fecundation, is gradu- 
ally developed in utero, from its incipient state of existence (punc- 
tum saliens) to that of the perfect foetus at the full period of utero- 
gestation. Physiologically, therefore, the infant after birth, while 
deriving all its nourishment and means of support from the breasts 
of its mother, cannot be regarded as more independent than the 
foetus in utero. The child unborn absorbs nourishment from its 
parent through the medium of the uterus. After birth, it imbibes 
the materials for nutrition by means of the mammas, or breasts. 
There is essentially no difference in its physiological properties, 
or as to the independent character of its existence, whether it 
remains in the uterus or is supported by the mother out of the 

The observations now made are applicable to all animated 
beings, to plants and animals, to the lower and higher orders of 
vital existences; but we must bear in mind the trite adage, that 
" like produces like ;" that the offspring resembles the parent in 
all essential points. Hence, the human embryo is to be regarded, 
not merely as representing the animal existence of its parents, 
but as possessing an intellectual and moral nature. AVonderful 
as is the formation of the body of the foetus, with all its suscepti- 
bilities, with its organic and animal life; still more mysterious is 
the transmission of an intellectual, moral, yea, a spiritual nature 
from parent to child. 

Of this, there can be no reasonable doubt. As the infant grows, 
it speedily manifests intelligence and moral feelings. It thinks, 
it reasons, it acts under the influence of its thoughts and its moral 
perceptions, as they arc successively developed. Whose observa- 
tion has been so obtuse, as not to observe the mental characteris- 
tics of the father or the mother in the child; in its modes of 
thinking, feeling, speaking, moving; yea, in the very expression 
of its countenance, and the peculiar attitudes and motions of its 
body. Who has not noticed the transmission, from generation to 


generation, of certain peculiarities of mental and moral character 
in families; so decided a transmission as not to be destroyed even 
by constant intermarriages. 

The child, therefore, must, and does receive an intellectual, a 
spiritual existence from its parents — from both parents. The in- 
fluences of one modifying those of the other ; sometimes those of 
the father — sometimes those of the mother, preponderating. 

It is not, therefore, a mere brute, to enjoy its vegetative and 
animal existence; to be governed by its sensations and in- 
stincts ; to live as its progenitors lived, and die as they died. ISTo, 
it is a human being; it has its animal nature; it has its spiritual 
existence. It is capable of thought, of reflection ; it has a per- 
ception of that which is beautiful, of that which is right — of that 
which is wrong, of virtue and vice. It has a moral nature ; a 
conscience; its mind and heart are capable of steady, of perma- 
nent improvement; it has high intellectual and moral aspirations. 
It is not satisfied with the past or the present. It stretches its 
views, its desires, through, yea, beyond this lower world ; it pene- 
trates the very heavens in its restless activity, and rejoices in the 
hope that there it shall find nobler and purer spirits, in whose 
companionship its now insatiable desires may possibly be satis- 
fied. It knows and feels its spiritual existence, and that this exist- 
ence is capable of infinite improvement, and of infinite duration. 

When, however, does this m} r stical union between the animal 
and spiritual nature of the human being occur? Is it at the time 
of birth; at quickening in utero, or at the time of conception? 

Here the imagination of man has been very busy. Vain specu- 
lations have existed as to the moral nature ; yea, even as to the 
great question of the moral accountability of unborn children. 
The medical philosopher, or rather metaphysician (for the bounda- 
ries of true philosophy have been transgressed), and also the 
professed theologian, have given reins to their imagination, and 
speculated freely as to the question, when does the union occur 
between the soul and body, between our corporeal and spiritual 
natures ? This has been regarded, also, as involving the question 
of the perfect vitality of the foetus, as prior to this union it (the 
foetus) was considered by many inanimate, or at best, but a por- 
tion of the mother, pars main's viscernm. After the junction, it 
was regarded as a perfect human being; possessing a moral, as 


well as a physical character. On this subject, there are, and have 
been, many extravagances. Hippocrates supposed animation oc- 
curred from thirty to forty-two days after conception. The Stoics, 
on the contrary, maintained that there was no proper or perfect 
vitality until after birth, and the establishment of respiration. 
The Academicians maintained that life was imparted during 
gestation, and hence, even the Church of Eome speaks of animate 
and inanimate foetuses. According to some, this animation oc- 
curred in three days ; according to others, in seven days ; accord- 
ing to others, at the fortieth or sixtieth day, when the pullulation, 
or organization of the foetus was completed. 

The usual impression, and one which is probably still main- 
tained by the mass of the community, is that the embryo is per- 
fected at the period of quickening; say the one hundred and 
twelfth, or one hundred and twentieth day. When the mother first 
perceives motion, is considered the period when the foetus be- 
comes animated ; when it receives its spiritual nature into union 
with its corporeal. 

These, and similar suppositions are, as has been already shown, 
contrary to all fact, to analogy, to reason ; and if it were not for 
the high authorities, medical, legal, and theological, in opposition, 
we might add, to common sense. 

What, it may be asked, have the sensations of the mother to 
do with the vitality of the child? Is it not alive because the 
mother does not feel it ? Every practitioner of Obstetrics can 
bear witness that children live and move and thrive long before 
the mother is conscious of its existence ; and that women have 
carried healthy living children to the seventh, and even to the ninth 
month without being conscious of its motions. Moreover, how 
can a fcetus be termed inanimate when it grows, of course is 
nourished, and manifests all the phenomena of life? The sup- 
position of inanimate embryos capable of being developed, is, at 
the present da} r , an absurdity. From the moment of conception 
it must be alive, for immediately it begins to be developed ; it is 
separated, as you will hereafter learn, from the ovary, where it 
was generated, and travels, some three or four inches, through a 
narrow tube or canal, to the uterus, as much disconnected from 
the mother as the chick in ovo is separated from the parent hen. 
Its subsequent attachments to the mother, by means of the pla- 


centa and uterus, are so indirect (as will be hereafter demon- 
strated), that we are justified in asserting that the mother has 
little more influence upon the child in utero than the parent bird 
has upon its offspring in the egg. 

If the question, therefore, be returned upon us, when does that 
mystical union between our corporeal and spiritual nature, be- 
tween matter and spirit, body and soul occur? We answer, at 
the time of conception: It is then only, the father can, in any way, 
exert an influence over his offspring; it is then only the female 
germ is in direct union with the mother ; the connection after- 
wards is indirect and imperfect. To suppose that the body only 
is generated at conception, and that the spirit is subsequently 
added, is, in the absence of all direct revelation on the subject, 
philosophically untrue, being at variance with the facts and with 
reason, as has already been illustrated and enforced. 

I have been led into this discussion, gentlemen, rather further 
than I anticipated, but not further than its importance demands. 
It is, in all respects, interesting and important. The opinions of 
medical men on these subjects regulate public sentiment, govern 
the tribunals of justice, and influence even the minds of the mental 
philosopher and the scrutinizing theologian. As respects the 
subject of the vitality of the foetus in utero, unfortunately, the in- 
considerate speculations of physiologists have become the founda- 
tion on which legislators have constructed laws, and the moralist 
promulgated rules, regulating human sentiments and conduct, on 
the interesting and important subjects of abortion or premature 
labor. If the embryo and foetus be, as the Stoics supposed, merely 
portio mains viscerum ; if it be not possessed of a sentient princi- 
ple, a living soul, until the period of actual delivery, then all 
attempts to procure abortion or premature labor, to destroy the 
embryo or foetus in utero, are comparatively venial. Instead of 
being regarded as a crime of the darkest dye, a crime involving 
human life, human happiness, and the best interests of society, it 
is a mere "misdemeanor" hardly to be noticed or punishable in the 
slightest manner. Hence, most of the ancient and modern laws 
do not protect the foetus in utero on the principle of an independ- 
ent existence. They merely regard the attempt to destroy it as 
an injury to the mother, to be punished according to the kind and 
decree of injury thus inflicted on the parent. About the year 


692, a very different sentiment was promulgated and supported 
in the Roman Empire ; so that, by a council and decree of the 
Emperor, the procuring of an abortion was homicide — murder — to 
be punished with death. 

" In France, the Roman law was adopted, and the parliaments 
frequently condemned midwives to be hanged for procuring the 
abortion of girls ; and physicians, surgeons, and others guilty of 
this crime, were subjected to the same punishment."* 

This continued until the period of the Revolution, when the 
punishment of death was transmuted to imprisonment for twenty 
years; and by the Napoleon Code, in 1810, the degree of punish- 
ment was still further lessened. 

In England, the "common law" (which is also adopted by the 
tribunals of justice in our country), as laid down by the celebrated 
Blackstone, is founded, as regards this subject, on the erroneous 
and still prevalent idea that the foetus, prior to quickening, is in 
a different state than it is when this event has occurred. Hence 
the English law does not even notice the crime of procuring abor- 
tion before quickening ; and even after this epoch, affirms that it 
is not murder but a serious misdemeanor. In rerum natura non, 
"killing is no murder." 

The good sense and virtuous feelings of the English nation 
have, however, interposed direct statutes to supply this deficiency 
of the common law. By the Ellenborough Act, under George 
the Third, in 1803, it was ordained that the procuring of an abor- 
tion of a female not quick with child, is felony, to be punished by 
fine, imprisonment, or exposure in the pillory, or that the criminal 
may be publicly or privately whipped or transported beyond the 
sea for any term not exceeding fourteen years. The same act also 
declares that to procure abortion after quickening is murder, to be 
punishable with death. This was afterwards modified by an act 
under George the Fourth. Lately, under Her Majesty, Queen 
Victoria, the whole subject has been revised, and more correct 
legislation has ensued, protecting the foetus from the time of con- 
ception, drawing no distinction whether the mother be quick with 
child or not. By the present law, therefore, of England, the pro- 
curing of abortion, at any period of preguancy, is felony, to be 

* Beck, Med. Jump. vol. i. p. 275. 


punished by transportation for fifteen } r ears, or for life, or by im- 
prisonment for three years. 

In our own country, this important subject has, most strangely, 
escaped the notice of our innumerable legislators. There has been 
but little legislation on the subject. "We are governed by the 
" common law" of England in this respect. Hence, criminal abor- 
tion is regarded merely as a misdemeanor, punishable by fine and 
imprisonment. In Massachusetts, it is not even an indictable 
offence, prior to quickening. At common law, it is not punish- 
able at all, if done before quickening, and with the consent of the 
mother. The State of New York has, however, been aroused 
from this indifference to human life, and has presented a better 
example to her confederates in our Federal Union. By her re- 
vised statutes, criminal abortion, before quickening, is punishable 
by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars, and imprisonment 
for one year. If the woman be quick, then it is punishable as 
manslaughter in the second degree. 

We trust this is the commencement of better things, and 
that our various legislators will, in rapid succession, enact laws 
with suitable penalties, founded on correct philosophical views of 
the reality and importance of the life of the child in utero ; that 
it is truly a perfect human being, and that its criminal destruction 
is murder. 

It ought, however, to be added that, by the common law, if the 
mother perish in consequence of an attempt to destroy the pro- 
duct of conception, the perpetrator of this barbarous act is regarded 
as a murderer, although he had no intention to injure the parent. 
Judge King, of this city, in a charge delivered to a jury, on a 
trial for murder of the mother, caused by procuring abortion, 
declares that, at "common law," the crime is murder. "Every act 
of procuring abortion," he says, " is murder, whether the person 
perpetrating such act intended to kill the woman, or merely felo- 
niously to destroy the fruit of her womb." The procuring abor- 
tion is " a base and unmanly act ;" it is a crime against the natural 
feelings of man — against the welfare and safety of females — against 
the peace and prosperity of society — against the divine command 
—"Thou shalt not kill." It is murder. 

It is in vain to evade this conclusion. As far as human inves- 
tigation has gone, or probably ever will go, in penetrating the 


mysterious function of generation ; as far as the light of reason, 
or the torch of Revelation has elucidated the subject ; there can 
be no reasonable doubt that human existence, corporeally and 
spiritually, commences, not with the birth of the foetus and the 
first inspiration, but at conception ; when the germs furnished by 
both parents are quickened into life. 

Nutrition, growth, the development of organs, the successive 
display of organic, animal, intellectual, moral, and spiritual func- 
tions, are but the successive manifestations of that mysterious 
principle of life, the gift of the Creator, which, feeble as it may 
be when first exerted within the dark impenetrable recesses of 
the mother's system, daily and hourly gains strength and energy, 
continually developing new organs and new functions, until, under 
its plastic and reviving influences, the invisible product of con- 
ception is developed, grows, passes through, the embryotic and 
foetal stages of existence, appears as the breathing and lovely 
infant, the active, the intelligent boy, the studious and moral 
youth, the adult man, rejoicing in the plenitude of his corporeal 
strength and intellectual powers, capable of moral and spiritual 
enjoyments ; and finally, in this world, as the aged man, whose 
system is preparing for new transformations, which, however 
humbling they may at first appear to the pride of man, and how- 
ever apparently destructive to his corporeal and intellectual exist- 
ence, are but the precursors of that glorious change, when, as 
Revelation teaches, " these natural bodies shall become spiritual 
bodies," "when this corruptible shall put on incorruption," when 
changes will be effected infinitely greater and more mysterious 
than occur at conception, and during gestation, and when it will 
be found that the existence commenced in the ovary of a woman, 
mysterious and wonderful as it may be, is but the commencement 
of a series of changes, each more wonderful and glorious than its 
predecessor, to which the same identical human being will be sub- 
jected, perhaps for eternity. 

These simple truths, almost self-evident, and which might be 
easily deduced from a priori reasoning, have been strangely ne- 
glected by medical men, and of course by legislators, moralists, 
and other influential individuals, who give tone to the feelings of 

We need not wander far for proofs of this assertion. The 


history of almost every nation is blackened by the hideous, 
unnatural crime of infanticide. 

You have all read of the horrible sacrifices of infants among 
barbarous nations, to appease or propitiate their idol gods. You 
know that Greeks and Romans, with all their boasted wisdom 
and refinement, habitually exposed their infants to the most ter- 
rible deaths ; that this crime is not forgotten in modern times ; 
that among nations, deprived of the light of Christianity, the 
sacrifices and the wanton destruction of infants still prevail, 
whether we extend our view to Asia, Africa, or America, or the 
islands of the sea. 

Criminal abortion is almost as prevalent. Hippocrates, the 
father of medicine, alludes to the potions taken by wicked women, 
or administered by still more wicked and detestable men, to pro- 
cure delivery. The females of Rome have their depravity, in 
this respect, recorded on a monument, perennius cere, the Satires 
of Juvenal. 

Would, gentlemen, that we could exonerate the modems from 
guilt on this subject! It is, however, a mournful fact, which 
ought to be promulgated, that this crime, this mode of commit- 
ting murder, is prevalent among the most intelligent, refined, 
moral, and Christian communities. 

We blush, while we record the fact, that in this country, in our 
cities and towns, in this city, where literature, science, morality, 
and Christianity are supposed to have so much influence ; where 
all the domestic and social virtues are reported as being in full 
and delightful exercise; even here individuals, male and female, 
exist, who are continually imbruing their hands and consciences 
in the blood of unborn infants ; yea, even medical men are to be 
found, who, for some trifling pecuniary recompense, will poison 
the fountains of life, or forcibly induce labor, to the certain 
destruction of the foetus, and not unfrequently of its parent. 

So low, gentlemen, is the moral sense of the community on this 
subject; so ignorant are the greater number of individuals, that 
even mothers, in many instances, shrink not from the commission 
of this crime, but will voluntarily destroy their own progeny, in 
violation of every natural sentiment, and in opposition to the 
laws of God and man. Perhaps there are few individuals, in 
extensive practice as obstetricians, who have not had frequent 


applications made to them by the fathers or mothers of unborn 
children (respectable and polite in their general appearance and 
manners), to destroy the fruit of illicit pleasure, under the vain 
hope of preserving their reputation by this unnatural and guilty 

Married women, also, from the fear of labor, from indisposition 
to have the care, the expense, or the trouble of children, or some 
other motive equally trifling and degrading, have solicited that 
the embryo should be destroyed by their medical attendant. And 
when such individuals are informed of the nature of the trans- 
action, there is an expression of real or pretended surprise that 
any one should deem the act improper — much more guilty ; yea, 
in spite even of the solemn warning of the physician, they will 
resort to the debased and murderous charlatan, who, for a piece 
of silver, will annihilate the life of a foetus, and endanger even 
that of its ignorant or guilty mother. 

This low estimate of the importance of foetal life is by no 
means restricted to the ignorant, or to the lower classes of so- 
ciety. Educated, refined, and fashionable women — yea, in many 
instances, women whose moral character is, in other respects, 
without reproach ; mothers who are devoted, with an ardent and 
self-denying affection, to the children who already constitute their 
family, are perfectly indifferent respecting the foetus in utero. 
They seem not to realize that the being within them is indeed 
animate — that it is, in verity, a human being — body and spirit ; 
that it is of importance, that its value is inestimable, having refer- 
ence to this world and the next. Hence, they in every way 
neglect its interests. They eat and drink ; they walk and ride ; 
they will practise no self-restraint, but will indulge every caprice, 
every passion, utterly regardless of the unseen and unloved em- 
bryo. They act with as much indifference as if the living, intel- 
ligent, immortal existence lodged within their organs, were of no 
more value than the bread eaten, or the common excretions of 
the system. Even in cases where mothers have suffered from 
repeated abortions, where foetus after foetus has perished through 
their neglect or carelessness, and where even their own health is 
involved in the issue, even in such cases every obstetrician can 
bear testimony to the groat difficulty of inducing our wayward 
patients to forego certain gratifications, to practise certain self- 


denials, and to adopt efficient means for the salvation of the 

This is not all. "We can bear testimony, that, in some instances, 
the woman who has been well educated, who occupies high 
stations in society, whose influence over others is great, and whose 
character has not been impugned, will deliberately resort to any 
and every measure which may effectually destroy her unborn 
offspring. Ashamed, or afraid, to apply to the charlatan, who 
sustains his existence by the price of blood, dreading it may be 
publicity, she recklessly and boldly adopts measures, however 
severe and dangerous, for the accomplishment of her unnatural, 
her guilty purpose. She will make extra muscular efforts by 
long fatiguing walks, by dancing, running, jumping, kept up as 
long as possible; she will swallow the most nauseous, irritating, 
and poisonous drugs, and in some instances, will actually arm 
herself with the surgeon's instrument, and operate upon her own 
body, that she may be delivered of an embryo, for which she has 
no desire, and whose birth and appearance she dreads. 

These facts are horrible, but they are too frequent, and too 
true. Often, very often, must all the eloquence and all the 
authority of the practitioner be employed; often he must, as it 
were, grasp the conscience of his weak and erring patient, and let 
her know, in language not to be misunderstood, that she is re- 
ponsible to her Creator for the life of the being within her. 

After this exposition, and the details which have been given, 
and especially in view of the influence which medical science 
must exert on these questions, it seems hardly necessary to repeat, 
that physicians, medical men, must be regarded as the guardians 
of the rights of infants. They alone can rectify public opinion ; 
they alone can present the subject in such a manner that legis- 
lators can exercise their powers aright in the preparation of suit- 
able laws ; that moralists and theologians can be furnished with 
facts to enforce the trufh on this subject upon the moral sense of 
the community, so that not only may the crime of infanticide be 
abolished, but that criminal abortion be properly reprehended, 
and that women, in every rank and condition of life may be 
sensible of the value of the embryo and foetus, and of the high 
responsibility which rests on the parents of every unborn infant. 

While thus advocating, in this place, the importance of Obste- 


trie science, as bearing on the welfare of women and of children 
and hence on the best interests of society; while presenting my- 
self, as an advocate, as well as one of the physical guardians of 
the rights of infants, it is with no ordinary satisfaction that I can 
survey such an assemblage of intelligent and educated young 
men as are here collected, who have devoted themselves to the 
pursuit of a science so exalted, so noble, so useful as that of 
medicine ; who, with an ardent enthusiasm, have determined to 
wage a war of extermination against any and every opinion 
and practice which in any degree infringes on the rights of women 
and their offspring. 

In this glorious work I bid you prosper. Your rewards may 
not be riches and honor, but they will be more valuable and 
enduring, arising from the smiles of an approving conscience, and 
the blessing of that Being who has pronounced the severest curse 
on the crime of murder.